What Are the Risk Factors for Multiple Myeloma?

A risk factor is anything that may increase your risk for a disease. Studies have identified the following risk factors for multiple myeloma:

  • Age: People over 65 are at higher risk.
  • Race: African Americans are twice as likely as European Americans to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Asian Americans have the lowest risk.
  • Gender: Men are more likely than women to get multiple myeloma.
  • Overweight or obesity: Being overweight or obese is associated with greater risk of developing multiple myeloma.
  • Exposure to Agent Orange: Vietnam veterans and other people who have been exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange are at increased risk for developing multiple myeloma. Agent Orange exposure is also associated with poorer survival after a multiple myeloma diagnosis. If you were exposed to Agent Orange, you should provide this information to your primary care physician.
  • Other environmental exposures:
    • Firefighters and other 9/11 first responders have about twice the normal risk of developing multiple myeloma, and in those cases, the disease tends to be more aggressive. If you are (or were) a firefighter or were a first responder on 9/11, you should provide this information to your primary care physician.
    • Farmers and others who work in agriculture may also be at increased risk of developing multiple myeloma due to exposure to herbicides and pesticides. Tell your primary care physician if you work in agriculture.
  • Medical history: People with a personal history of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) are at increased risk.
  • People with a personal history of other plasma cell diseases are at higher risk.

Having one or more risk factors does not mean that a person will get multiple myeloma. Most people who have risk factors never develop the disease.

What are the symptoms of multiple myeloma?